‘I’m close’: Gauff reflects on 4th-round loss at Wimbledon

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Coco Gauff’s second Wimbledon ended much like her first – with a fourth-round loss to one of the tournament favorites.

The difference this time is that the 17-year-old American felt she’s on the verge of going much further in a major.

”I just feel like I’m close,” Gauff said after losing to 2018 Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-4 on Centre Court. ”Always competitive in these matches against these top players.”

It was at Wimbledon that Gauff made a whirlwind breakthrough at age 15 in 2019, becoming the youngest woman to qualify for the grass-court Grand Slam and then taking out Venus Williams en route to the fourth round.

That time she lost to eventual champion Simona Halep. This time it was Kerber, the only remaining former Wimbledon champion, who outplayed her in the crucial moments.

Kerber converted four of the five break points she created and saved four of the six she faced.

”I just need to do better on certain points and certain moments in the match,” Gauff said. ”I have to notice when the momentum changes and how to react to when it changes.”

Gauff has already become a regular on Centre Court – she was placed there for three of her four matches in this tournament – and seems completely unfazed playing on the sport’s biggest stage.

She struggled with the windy conditions at the start of her match against Kerber, but in the end it was her overly aggressive mindset that proved costly.

”There were times I had a lot of unforced errors just strictly for the fact of trying to go for too much,” she said. ”In the past I have had tendencies to play too passive, and now I’m playing too aggressive. I just need to find the medium for when the score is tight and I’m feeling the pressure.”

CATCHING TOO MANY BREAKS

Sebastian Korda couldn’t explain it. Neither could Karen Khachanov.

A bizarre fifth set in their fourth-round match left them scratching their heads as to how they could combine for 13 breaks of serve in the decider, which was finally won by Khachanov 10-8.

”I don’t know what was happening out there,” said Korda, the American who was playing at Wimbledon for the first time. ”We just couldn’t hold serve.”

Korda was the first to go up a break in that fifth set – twice in fact – but handed the advantage right back both times. Khachanov then needed four attempts to serve out the match after they kept trading breaks time and again.

”It’s tough to explain,” Khachanov siad. ”Both of us were more stressed, more tight. This is obvious. I mean, you don’t need to be hiding that.”

For Korda, the loss put a damper on what would have been a perfect 21st birthday. But just getting far enough in the tournament to be able to celebrate that birthday at the All England Club made it pretty special.

”I’m still super happy with how the whole tournament and today was,” Korda said. ”Ever since I decided to play tennis I always dreamed about having my birthday here at Wimbledon. I knew if I would have my birthday here I’d have a really good week.”

For now, though, Korda will have to wait a bit longer for a chance to add his first major title to the family collection.

He is the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and the brother of top-ranked golfer Nelly Korda, who won the Women’s PGA Championship just over a week ago.

And perhaps there was another explanation for that inability to hold serve at the end. It was the first time Korda played a match that went to a fifth set.

”It was a whole new experience for me,” Korda said. ”Every tournament I’m learning new things.”

BORG IS BACK – SORT OF

Forty years and one day after his famous father played his last match at Wimbledon, Leo Borg had a winning debut at the All England Club.

The son of Swedish five-time champion Bjorn Borg won his opening match in the boys’ junior tournament, beating Marko Topo of Serbia 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-0.

The 18-year-old Leo sports the same long blond hair and Fila clothes as his father and naturally drew quite a bit of media attention on his first appearance at the All England Club.

”I know my dad played here so many times and won the title,” Leo Borg said. ”So it was very special to get out there and feeling that maybe one day I’m getting there, the same as my dad.”

He said his father gave him some advice before the match: ”He just said good luck and have a great time on the court. Because it’s always special to play at Wimbledon. Just enjoy it.”

Bjorn Borg lost to John McEnroe in an epic 1981 final, having won the tournament the previous five years.

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